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Missing Left Sock Beast
sistercoyote
.:: .::...:.. .: : .:::.:. ...


Coyote Musings
Coyote handsome
his coat the same brown
as the dust from which he rises

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What is the sound of one hand slapping Schroedinger's cat?

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The Quantum Duck goes "quark, quark."

September 2010
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Missing Left Sock Beast [userpic]
Requested Topic: Coyote's Commandments/Everything is Sacred, and Nothing is Sacred

So, as part of my "give me suggestions for Holidailies" post, I was given "Coyote's Commandments." After asking for clarification, because you have to admit that's a little vague, I was told that the person in question wanted to know about living with "Coyote," what the Commandments are or I perceive them to be, those sorts of things. Great, I think to myself. An easy topic.

Sigh.

Truth be told, though, Coyote-as-presenting-to-or-from-me isn't exactly the Trickster God most people think of. Coyote is not Webster Kitchell's Coyote, anthropomorphic and Warner Brothers-influenced in a purple zoot suit. And in any event, and other people's posts aside, that Coyote isn't really the sort to hand down Commandments. Coyote-as-presenting-to-or-from-me (hereafter "Coyote" because I'll get tired of typing all that crap) does in fact have four feet and fur (and, as a side note, is usually female). The communications we have had, inasmuch as we have had conversations, have all involved me speaking and Her responding through body language (including typical and easily recognizable canine body language such as play-bow). So, definitely not the type to give Commandments, and they would be Commandments that I would have to interpret, anyway.

I took a break from writing this to go run an errand at lunch (two more payments and my car is MINE! Woo Hoo! But not too much woohoo, since that money will be going to my Student Loans next and no, ashenseraph, I can't put my loans off because I'm not a full-time graduate student), and I suddenly realized what Coyote meant by nudging the cub to me in the "vision" I had during the guided meditation. And it wasn't what I thought. Way to take ten years to understand what my guide is trying to tell me.

Anyway.

So, not the sort of divinity to be giving Commandments. That's where I was. Now, as I've mentioned before, I've done my research into Tricksters in general and the Trickster I've been saddled with in particular, just to see what I can learn. I've also done a lot of nature reading about coyotes to learn what I can about them. And that's largely where I take lessons from. Coyotes (the animals) are an awful lot like humans in some of their underlying instincts (not in an anthropomorphizing sense, although what I'm about to do is anthropomorphize to a certain extent).

Some things I've learned from studying books about other people's studies of coyotes, and also from my own occasional encounters:

Be Curious. In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Qveene, Britomart encounters the inscriptions: Be Bold. Be Bold. But not Too Bold. while in the enchanter's castle, and in some ways I think this is a very similar thing. Coyotes in the wild are curious about changes in their environment - a sensible way to be, when you think about it - but they are also cautious about exploring whatever has roused their curiosity. I took some video once of coyotes in the Los Angeles Zoo whose cage had just been cleaned, and their water refreshed. Both coyotes were skittish and nervous, but neither could resist the lure of exploring the "new" water in their cage - in fact, one of them became deeply fascinated with some foam that had been created, and spent several minutes examining it, playing with it, jumping away from it, and in the end trying to "coax" it back to him when it had drifted too far from the edge for him to be able to examine it any further (without swimming).

For me, curiosity leads to being engaged in the world.  It leads to learning things that I didn't know before, or finding new uses for things I already knew.  Curiosity leads me to a deeper sense of wonder, and is part of the reason I am so fascinated with magic (both prestidigitation and the mystical kind) and mystery (whodunnit, how does it work, and the mystical kind).  I think that our sense of curiosity is so critical to understanding the world around us, our place in it, and how to interact with each other, and I'm saddened by the way I have seen it crushed in some people.  To me, Curiosity is a virtue and is also something "worthy of respect or dedication" - something sacred.  But curiosity can lead to change, and that leads me to:

Do not change lightly.  Coyotes in the wild do not like changes in their enviornment, though they will adapt to them.  Change is necessary, yes, but change can also be dangerous.  A minivan in the middle of a coyote's territory (as in Hope Ryden's book God's Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote) could be a threat: hunters setting up, or it could be (as it turns out to be in the book) just a researcher so determined not to disturb the coyotes that she pees in ziploc bags to hide the smell.  Either way, though, it pays the coyote to be cautious, and so they are.

I adapt this lesson in ways that are pertinent for me:  I do not reject change out-of-hand, but I do consider the value of a change before I accept or make it.  I've been changing a lot, lately, and I accept that change is inevitable, but I also accept that change is difficult and uncomfortable and potentially dangerous and that I do not have to like it.  In fact, the question is not "am I going to like changing?" but "is this change worth the discomfort it will cause me?".

Tend to your pack.  Coyotes, like wolves, tend to pack up, though coyote packs are generally much smaller (usually one alpha couple, one or two juveniles, and any pups from the senior pair) and do not perform coordinated hunting.  Just like any other pack animal, their politics of who's on top and who has responsibility for what can get very complicated and seem incomprehensible to the outside observer.  It is not known for sure whether or not the juveniles seen in coyote packs are necessarily older pups from a previous mating of the alpha pair.

Either way, though, they tend to each other.  I think the lesson I take from this is pretty straight-forward, although related to this is a form of "know your place" that has less to do with knowing who has power over you than understanding your purpose within the pack and that I need to think through a little further before I can "verbalize."

Accept help where it is offered; do not reject others just because they are different from you.  Coyotes have been known to eat badger cubs.  Likewise, badgers will snack on a coyote pup if it is available and they are hungry.  And yet coyotes have been known to hunt with badgers:  the coyote (or badger) sits at one end of a mouse/prairie dog tunnel and the badger (coyote) digs at the other end until the prey animal pops out of the ground practically in the waiting animal's mouth.  And they take turns at this.  It's been observed (but I don't remember which text this is in, sorry).

This amuses me, but it also points up that even if someone else will eat your babies it doesn't necessarily mean that you can't work together for a mutually beneficial end.  If that's the case, there's no point in rejecting someone else just because they believe/act/look differently from you.  Now, if you catch them eating your babies, (or preferably before) that's different.  (This also has a lot to do with my feelings about the UU First Principle, but that hasn't anything to do with Coyote.)

The purpose of most (but not all) Trickster Tales seem to be to point up where the boundaries are:  don't be too proud, or you'll trip and find yourself in the dirt.  Pretending to be someone or to know something you're not could lead to your death.  Don't stretch your penis out to have sex with girls on the other end of the pond, or it'll get lopped off when one of them thinks it's a snake.*  The Trickster steps over the boundaries, and sometimes gets away with it, but most of the time doesn't.  So I guess the message I take away there is mind the boundaries, even when you're crossing them, or else be really inventive about your reasons for crossing them.

Then, finally, there's something mentioned around the web and in books I've read about Coyote Wisdom being Everything is sacred, and Nothing is sacred.  Everything is "worthy of respect or dedication," and nothing is "worthy of respect or dedication." This resonates with me, in ways that I just cannot adequately explain, but I'm going to try.

Everything is sacred.  All that is known is worthy of respect or dedication, from the act of defecation to, I dunno, the Universe itself.  Every thing.  The air we breathe, the people we talk to, the ideas we come up with, the bum on the street, the concept of The United States of America, the dirt, the earthworms, Rwanda, jam on toast, all of it.  What does it mean when every thing is worthy of respect or dedication - does "sacred" then come to have no meaning?

I don't think so.  If everything is worthy of respect or dedication, then everything needs to be treated properly, in the manner most proper for its enjoyment, preservation, or use.  It is a tragedy when anything is destroyed, when anyone dies.  The death of an antelope at the fangs of a pack of lions requires the same respect and honor that was shown at the death of [insert important person here].  Human life is not the most worthy of respect on the planet; it is only one of all things that requires our respect and dedication.  Working in the garden is the same as going to church or participating in ritual.  Every thing is important.  Every thing requires dedication.

Nothing is sacred.  None of what is known is worthy of respect or dedication, from the act of defecation to, I dunno, the Universe itself.  No thing.  The air we breathe, the people we talk to, the ideas we come up with, the bum on the street, the concept of The United States of America, the dirt, the earthworms, Rwanda, jam on toast, none of it.  What does it mean when no thing is worthy of respect or dedication - does "sacred" then come to have no meaning?

Of course it does.  If nothing is worthy of respect or dedication, then it doesn't matter how we treat anything, regardless of the manner most proper for its enjoyment, preservation, or use.  It is a fact that things are destroyed and everyone dies.  The death of an antelope at the fangs of a pack of lions requires no more respect or honor than is shown at the death of [insert important person here].  Human life is not the most worthy of respect on the planet, it is only one of all things that do not require our respect and dedication.  Working in the garden is the same as going to church or participating in ritual.  No thing is important.  No thing requires dedication.

The tricky part here is the "and," because it requires me/us to hold both these contradictory concepts at the same time.  Coyote Wisdom does not say "or."  That would be much easier - pick one, and be done with it.  No:  it both matters and doesn't matter how we treat things.  An individual death both does and doesn't deserve to be honored.  The following statement is true.  The preceeding statement is false.

How, dare I say it, paradoxical.

And yet.  And yet life is a series of paradoxes: statements or propositions that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.  And that, in the end, has a lot to do with how and what I believe.  Life is not simple, it is complicated, and yet it is not complicated, it is simple.  Life is what it is; life is what we make of it.

Richard le Gallienne wrote of Oscar Wilde (a person who has my respect):  Paradox with him was only truth standing on its head to attract attention.  I'm not sure what this quote has to do with anything, and yet somehow, it seems the most appropriate place to end this tediously long post.  Congratulations if you made it through to the end.

*This is now going to be the take-away message from this post for 95% of you, I just know it is.
Also, I cross-posted this to Radical Daffodils, and I may yet move my "religious" musings over there.

At:: 89512
Feeling:: contemplativeLook! I have a navel!
Listening to:: silence (but not of the lambs)
Comments

omg...yup. I'll try not to do the pond/snake thing. Yup, that's what I got out of this. ^_~

only kidding. Very interesting piece about Coyote Wisdom....

It took me some days to read this in full, but I did want to thank you for it and for linking me to it.

You're welcome - any time anyone expresses an interest in my writing I do try to remember to let them know about something new. :)

It is rather long, though.

Based upon this and our interaction in mactavish's journal yesterday, would you mind if I added you? You seem an interesting sort, and while I cleave more to wolf, I think there's enough commonality there to be worthwhile. :)

I would be delighted - I always like making new friends. :)